Stephen Hawking’s Three Arguments Against God
by Robin Schumacher
In a recent exchange with a Spanish journalist, physicist Stephen Hawking affirmed again that he was an atheist and asserted that a supernatural Creator is not necessary to answer the foundational philosophical question posed long ago by philosopher/mathematician Gottfried Leibniz: “why do we have something rather than nothing?”
There is no doubt that Hawking’s intellect exceeds the vast majority on this planet (including mine) and that his professional achievements are astounding, especially given his physical handicap, and deserve high respect. But when he argues against the existence of God, I’m rather surprised at his core arguments, which can be found in various works such as The Grand Design.
Let’s take a look at Hawking’s three key arguments against God and see what answers for them can be had.
No Gaps, Just Science
Hawking’s first argument against God can be summarized by saying that God is simply unnecessary; that the idea of a Creator has historically been substituted for true knowledge about reality, but today we know better. Hawking writes, “Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life.”
This is the “God of the gaps” contention, which states that science has now filled past gaps in human’s knowledge of how the universe works and any remaining holes in that fabric will be mended by future discoveries.
The last part of the argument should be recognized by those who have studied logic as the “appeal to the future” fallacy, which says that someday evidence will be discovered to justify a person’s current position. But what about the core contention being presented here?
Hawking and others are right in that the removal of various false deities behind the actual forces of nature was a step in the right direction for better understanding our world and the universe in general. But ridding oneself of these false gods of the gaps is much easier than evicting the God of the Bible.
Why? Because the former blurs the concepts of agent and mechanism together whereas the latter properly separates them. Or, viewed another way, it confuses and blends different types of causations (material, instrumental, efficient, etc.) For example, the laws of science can certainly explain the way my computer works and the various mechanisms and causes that went into making it (the ‘how’), but such explanations don’t negate the need for the agent/efficient cause that designed it, which answers the “why my computer exists” question.
The same is true where a cause for existence is concerned, which leads us to Hawking’s second argument against God…
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